Wednesday, September 30, 2009


As I mention in my intro, I'm a graduate student in English. Specifically, I am a Masters student about to take my qualifying exam and hopefully proceed on to the PhD program. If I manage that, I'll be specializing in Medieval Studies, because the literature of the medieval world, especially the early medieval, fascinates me. One of my favorite works of literature is Beowulf, which is the longest surviving work in Old English.

As a fan and student of the medieval era, I am often trying to find a way to bring it together with my interest in gaming. I already have a quite large collection of fantasy novels; some of them are great, while some of them I collected while in my early teens and keep only for nostalgia. I have a growing collection of medieval literature and history, as well, especially concerning Old English and Old Norse. Yes, I find Vikings, and other early medieval Scandinavians fascinating; I once wrote a 25-page paper for a Byzantine History class on the Varangian Guard, a special contingent of mercenaries imported by the Byzantine emperor from Scandinavian nations.

One of the things I have found that works quite well trying to combine my love of the medieval with my love of gaming is the literature and writing of the Anglo-Saxons. They were a harsh people, living in a harsh time, and yes, they did invade the British Isles. But one of the things they also seemed to love was the creation of riddles. There are dozens, if not hundreds, of Anglo-Saxon riddles floating around, and many of them are very cunningly written; they seemed to have a fondness for making something sound like sexual innuendo, when in fact the answer was not sexual at all.

Luckily for me, one of the very first sites that comes up when you punch in 'Anglo-Saxon riddles' in Google is a site created by a former professor of mine from my undergraduate days; without his influence, I doubt I would have made it as far as I have today in the academic world. Riddles are not the only contribution the Old English and Norse made towards gaming, obviously, but they are one of the contributions I have found most useful in flummoxing players, as well as an interesting insight into the culture they come from. If you have any interest, look them up, and if you're looking for more, contact me.

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